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Tough Act to Follow
"If there's one thing history has taught us, besides not to piss off people called Genghis or put lead in your water pipes, it's that if you're going to make something incredibly good that becomes frighteningly popular, make sure it's the last thing you ever make in your entire life because otherwise you get to spend the rest of your creative career struggling under the weight of high expectations and bricks."
Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw, Spore Review

A work which attains such overwhelming success that it dooms its creator's later efforts to languish in its shadow. The follow-up may have its own merits, but fans will dismiss it because it doesn't stand up to the original.

Essentially the creative version of typecasting.

Contrast Protection from Editors, for when the new creations do suck but get published anyway, or need more work if they're not going to suck but no one dares tell you this. Compare with Glory Days. See also First Installment Wins, Sophomore Slump and One-Hit Wonder. If fans becomes split over this, it will lead to a Broken Base. This will often lead to sequelitis and/or contested sequels. Frustration over this trope may cause Creator Backlash.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Believed to be the reason why Rurouni Kenshin author Nobuhiro Watsuki was not (and likely will never be) able to have another series which runs longer than 10 volumes, the magic number where Busou Renkin ended publication. Gun Blaze West was cancelled after only three.
  • After Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hideaki Anno tried to make "serious" films, and publicly bashed both Evangelion fans and otakus in general. He never managed to make anything as widely successful or influential as Eva, and eventually gave in and created the Rebuild of Evangelion series over a decade later.
  • Saint Seiya fell victim to this. Kurumada's first runaway hit was Ring Ni Kakero, a boxing drama although with its share of Shonen elements. Saint Seiya was the closest he got, but it lost popularity and was forced to conclude with a Bittersweet Ending. A few of his works have tanked and the only series post-Kakero he was able to end on his terms was Bt X.
  • Likewise, Naoko Takeuchi was less than well received after having completed Sailor Moon, and never managed to finish anything else afterwards, leaving several Orphaned Series behind.
  • Yoshiyuki Tomino had this problem with Mobile Suit Gundam. He became very bitter over this, but has lightened up considerably since working on ∀ Gundam.
  • Yudetamago ran into this after concluding Kinnikuman.
  • Director Kazuki Akane started strong with The Vision of Escaflowne, which became wildly popular (even broadcast on Fox Kids in the United States), and remains to this day one of the most iconic anime from the 1990s. His next project was Geneshaft, which was seen by few and hated by most who did. His next creation was Heat Guy J; most who know of it know only about how much Geneon paid for it (as much as Funimation paid for Fullmetal Alchemist), and how poorly it sold. Next came Noein, which fared better in popularity and reception, but only modestly. His latest work was Birdy the Mighty: Decode, which sold very poorly in Japan.
  • Tetsuo Hara never illustrated another manga series that was as wildly popular as Fist of the North Star. Hana no Keiji (a fictionalized biography of Keiji Maeda) was somewhat of a moderate success, but most of his other titles (Cyber Blue, Takeki Ryusei and Rintaro Nakabo) never managed to last more than a couple of volumes. Even Fist of the Blue Sky, a prequel to North Star set during the early 20th century, concluded in a rather lukewarm matter after the magazine that was publishing it folded and Hara went on to work on a different title.
  • Quick, name a manga Akira Toriyama has drawn since Dragon Ball. He's actually created quite a few short manga since then, but they've barely registered on most people's radars. It might be because they're almost all single-volume series, though. He's never even attempted a long series since Dragon Ball ended, partially for fear of this trope.
    • He does, however, avert this trope in the video game realm, where he remains quite popular as the head artist for the cult classic games Chrono Trigger, Blue Dragon, and the Dragon Quest series.
  • Office Academy, the company behind Space Battleship Yamato, made several forgettable series such as Space Carrier Blue Noah that failed to gain recognition inside or outside of Japan, unlike Yamato.
  • Quite possibly the reasoning for nothing but more Yu-Gi-Oh! from Kazuki Takahashi. And even then, his input has fallen from writing the manga (Yu-Gi-Oh!), to having major input and plot work on the anime (GX), to just doing character designs (5Ds and Zexal).
  • None of Ryosuke Takahashi's works after Armored Trooper VOTOMS managed to achieve the same level of acclaim and longevity as that aforementioned series, with Yoroiden Samurai Troopers coming the closest (but even that didn't last past the early nineties). As a result, he's ended up handling most of VOTOMS' prequel and sequel OVAs.
  • The HeartCatch Pretty Cure! series, considered to be one of the best seasons in the entire Pretty Cure franchise, due to its Darker and Edgier plot and having even more over-the-top fight scenes compared to its predecessors has left the few seasons after it as part of this trope.
    • Pretty Cure All Stars movies get hit with this as well, as DX 3 and its over the top moments make the succeeding New Stage series lacking.
  • After Sazae-san had become a huge success and the most viewed anime ever (a record which remains unbeaten to this day), Machiko Hasegawa created a new comic strip called Granny Mischief about an old woman who always spent her time creating trouble for her fellow man with all kinds of pranks. It's just as funny as Sazae-san, but never became quite as popular.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's was a major improvement from the first series for many fans. StrikerS, however, wasn't that popular with fans because it didn't live up to the complexity and awesomeness that was A's. The manga sequels and movies have suffered from this as well.

    Comic Books 
  • Art Spiegelman when it comes to his "comix" duology Maus. He has been quite vocal about how he never expected the "monument to my father" to become so popular, nor did he expect that his later works would be greeted by wishes for Maus III.
  • Jim Starlin, who thanks to his masterful work crafting The Infinity Gauntlet, has every comic book given to him compared to it and rarely in a favorable light.
  • After Kurt Busiek's historic Avengers run, Geoff Johns took over the tile, only to quickly quit and jump ship back to DC due to Executive Meddling. Chuck Austen followed Johns' run, and was widely considered to be one of the worst writers in the franchise's history. Sales fell so sharply that Marvel cancelled the book with Avengers Disassembled and allowed Brian Bendis to reboot it as New Avengers, which was a much stronger seller.
  • Chris Claremont on the X-Men; only a bare handful of writers have managed to carve an identity out on the X-Books that did not have Claremont's shadow hanging over them. Similarly, everything Chris Claremont himself has done since then has been inevitably been declared not as good as his original X-Men run.
  • Green Lantern has Ron Marz, who made the book a hit with the introduction of Kyle Rayner of Green Lantern. When he left the book, he was replaced with Judd Winick, whose run was so reviled that many Rayner fans blame him for sinking the sales of title and basically forcing DC to bring Hal Jordan back as Green Lantern to stop the bleeding.
  • Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis inevitably have every series they launch compared to their classic Justice League International run, no matter how different their new projects are. They finally got in and accepted this, as they started writing a new Justice League spin-off as part of the New 52.
  • Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster never created anything that people remembered to nearly the extent of Superman.

    Film 
  • Alien is one of the best horror films of all time. Aliens is one of the best action films of all time. Alienł, while a pretty severely flawed film, probably gets more flak than it deserves because of this trope.
  • The Thing (1982) is constantly looked at as one of the greatest sci-fi/horror films of all time. Its prequel, The Thing (2011), could never hope to live up to this. Sad really.
  • Since The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan has been trying to replicate his success with low-key supernatural horror and the Twist Ending. So far, each film has had a progressively worse critical reception overall, to the point that now Shyamalan's name attached to any project seems to be a kiss of death.
  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi is often derided for not being as good as the fan favorite and Even Better Sequel The Empire Strikes Back. The prequels get enormous amounts of hate simply over being not as good as the original trilogy.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull fell flat in part due to comparisons to the original trilogy.
  • Orson Welles never had a prayer of producing another film that would live up to the reputation Citizen Kane enjoyed, although this is partly because he was never again allowed the degree of creative control he had with Kane. A later Welles film, Touch of Evil, is nowadays regarded by critics as a great artistic work, though it's nowhere near as well known to the public at large as Kane is. The Magnificent Ambersons is regarded as almost as good, but the "almost" wasn't Welles' fault; it was RKO's for destroying the original ending and tacking on a new one.
  • Most of Quentin Tarantino's films have been financial and critical successes, but none of them will probably ever top his first major release, Pulp Fiction, at least in terms of mainstream reinvention of the medium.
  • Tobe Hooper never was able to replicate the success of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) as well as his subsequent films. The closest he ever came was probably Poltergeist, but the involvement of executive producer Steven Spielberg overshadowed Hooper's work.
  • Austrian actress Luise Rainer won the Best Actress Oscar twice in a row in 1937 and 1938, (a feat repeated only by Katharine Hepburn). She once said about her awards that nothing worse could have happened to her, as audience expectations from then on would be too high to fulfill. Her career waned at the end of the 30s, and she retired in 1943.
  • Donald Cammell spent his career trying to make another film as well-received as his debut, Performance (co-directed by Nicolas Roeg). He eventually committed suicide after dealing with Executive Meddling one too many times.
  • Christopher Nolan has expressed anxiety over the prospects of the third film in the The Dark Knight Saga, noting that after the massive accolades The Dark Knight received it will be difficult to write a satisfying follow-up, and pointing out "how many good third parts in a franchise can you think of?" And of course, some Critical Backlash occurred for The Dark Knight Rises, given how high the stakes were set by its predecessor. There's also the fact that Nolan's last film would be a tough act to follow up on as well.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan had it all: an edge-of-your-seat plot, tremendous music, fantastic (for its time) visual effects, literary references galore, a true Tear Jerker ending, and great timeless themes interspersed throughout. With every new movie since, they've been trying to measure up to that - and always fell short. Although the 2009 reboot has come extremely close. For many people, the same has been true of Star Trek Into Darkness when compared to the 2009 film.
  • John Singleton's directorial debut Boyz n the Hood was critically acclaimed, and made him the youngest Academy Award nominee for Best Director at the age of 24. Twenty years later, it's still regarded his best work.
  • This is definitely one interpretation of The Godfather Part III. When you're making a sequel to two films that are almost universally regarded as absolute masterpieces, whatever you make is highly likely to not live up to its predecessors, even if it's a good film in its own right, which a lot of people regard Part III as.
  • Hans Zimmer had really, really big shoes to fill as the composer for Man of Steel, because the theme of Superman: The Movie is one of the greatest movie themes of all time and is undeniably the theme of the Superman franchise. In fact, Zimmer initially stated that he wasn't scoring Man of Steel for this reason, but it was confirmed later that he was scoring MoS. Any actor playing the Man of Steel will be measured against Christopher Reeve, a truly daunting high standard of acting excellence and sincere charm.
  • Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen's follow-up to Borat, didn't get anywhere near as positive a reaction as Borat at the box office. While it opened as big, its second weekend fell a staggering amount (nearly 75%) to a single-digit-million-take after pulling north of $30 million the week before.
  • Cracked's "5 Works of Art So Good, They Ruined Their Whole Genre" calls 2001: A Space Odyssey, Fight Club, and Animal House tough acts to follow in their respective genres.
  • GoldenEye, Pierce Brosnan's debut as James Bond, simply was so phenomenal that his subsequent movies could not live up to its high standards. Then again, GoldenEye was the film that revived the franchise after years of Development Hell.
  • Peter O'Toole holds the record for being nominated the most times (8) for an Academy Award without winning. A contribution to this is without a doubt that his first nomination was for Lawrence of Arabia, his most iconic role, where he lost to Gregory Peck for To Kill a Mockingbird (see further below) as Atticus Finch (his most iconic role). It was simply the case of one being the veteran and the other never having done a film before. While he has been a great actor, Lawrence is of course what he will be remembered as.
  • Iron Man 3 hasn't gotten as overwhelmingly positive a critical reception as Iron Man's previous cinematic endeavor, the crossover The Avengers. However, it received much better reviews than Iron Man 2, and was the highest grossing film in the Iron Man series, as well as the second highest grossing film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Paper Moon was this for director Peter Bogdanovich. His next three films were critical and commercial failures. No other film he made after was nearly as successful until Mask, which was released 12 years later, and he hasn't had another one since.
  • Given that Neill Blomkamp's debut film was District 9, this reaction was kind of inevitable, unfortunately. While many praise Elysium for its effects and Sharlto Copley's performance as Kruger, quite a few thought that the social commentary and the overall character development paled in comparison to Blomkamp's debut film.
  • The second movie Mel Brooks directed, an adaptation of The Twelve Chairs starring Ron Moody, Frank Langella, and Dom Deluise, hasn't left nearly as strong an impact on pop culture as The Producers has. Fans could make a similar comparison between Young Frankenstein and Silent Movie, although at least they both more money than The Twelve Chairs did.
  • Kevin Smith followed up Clerks, a Generation X comedy masterpiece, with Mallrats. While it's since been Vindicated by History and recognized as a pretty entertaining film in its own right, Mallrats was initially seen as a Sophomore Slump for Smith, subject to a lot of unfair comparisons to Clerks, to the point where Smith gave a mock-apology for it at the 1996 Independent Spirit Awards. It didn't help that, at the time, it was a Box Office Bomb that nearly bankrupted distributor Gramercy Pictures. He's said multiple times the film "hangs over [his] whole career."

    Literature 
  • Ender’s Game was Orson Scott Card's first novel, which received major critical accolades and has sold millions of copies. His later novels, including a number of sequels, have been successful as genre fiction, but never broke out into mainstream acceptance as Ender's Game did.
  • This trope is (probably) the reason Harper Lee never wrote another book after To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • The idea that everyone has a moment which overshadows the rest of their life becomes a major theme of the novel Foucaults Pendulum. (And some would say the work is itself an example!)
  • William Golding's first novel was Lord of the Flies. He wrote many others afterwards, but none of them matched its success.
  • The success of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz haunted L. Frank Baum for the rest of his career. Although he tried to make forays into other stories, he was never very successful and ended up penniless, forced to write more Oz books. In the intro to one book he actually says that he knows many stories not about Oz, and wishes he had a chance to tell them. He used the fifth book of the series, The Road to Oz, as a sort of Massive Multiplayer Crossover by inviting characters from his other books to attend Princess Ozma's birthday party, hoping to get his Oz readers interested in those other stories. He even tried to end the series after the sixth book, The Emerald City of Oz, neatly tying up the loose ends, giving an in-universe explanation for the end of the stories, and announcing at the end that it would be the last Oz book. It didn't work, and he ended up writing eight more Oz books after that.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could never escape the popularity of his flagship series about a certain 19th century detective. Despite Doyle's attempts to move on by killing off the iconic protagonist, he later bowed to public pressure to bring him back. Also, like Frank Baum, Doyle got fed up with having to continue the series, but financial necessity and failed outside novels prevented him from branching out.
  • Frankenstein: Mary Shelley once said something to the effect that: "some people only have one really good novel in them." She would probably know a little about this trope, given that most people can only name one thing she ever wrote, even though she went on to write The Last Man, which is remembered as the first post-apocalyptic-future novel as well as other works.
  • Peter S. Beagle unintentionally displayed the upside of this trope in an introduction to one edition of The Last Unicorn. He stated that the book would always haunt him "even as The Crock Of Gold came to haunt James Stephens." Notice that Stephens and The Crock of Gold don't have entries on the wiki — but The Last Unicorn does, and Beagle got a stub primarily because of it.
  • Watership Down was Richard Adams's first novel. He wrote several others, but none of them became nearly as successful.
  • Similarly, Joseph Heller never again came close to the success of The Great American Novel, Catch-22. Some of his later works playfully reference this. Did you know that there's a sequel?
    "When I read something saying I've not done anything as good as Catch-22 I'm tempted to reply, 'Who has?'"
  • Chuck Palahniuk exploded onto the scene with Fight Club, which became a major success after the highly popular and influential film adaptation. While his other novels sell well, none of them have come close to the success of Fight Club. His other novels usually advertise the fact that they are written "by the author of Fight Club, and reviews typically describe his work in relation to it.
  • Walter Miller Jr. After publishing his magnum opus A Canticle for Leibowitz, Miller isolated himself for 40 odd years and never published another book again, only stating in an interview that his reasons for not publishing were "not for the public to know." The posthumously published follow-up to Canticle, "Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman," is universally regarded as inferior.
  • Andrzej Sapkowski, writer of The Witcher saga has published few other books in his native Poland after the last volume of the series, but cannot top its popularity. In fact, his last book is hated by many for being too different from The Witcher.
  • Amy Tan admits in her memoirs that she felt a lot of this after the runaway success of The Joy Luck Club. Her eventual solution was to write many novels until she came up with one she thought could stand on its own (The Kitchen God's Wife). In the end, she thinks it's better than The Joy Luck Club.
  • Stephenie Meyer had a huge hit with the Twilight series. Her next novel, The Host sold very well and was also made into a movie, but has nowhere near the same level of hype. She has stated she has many other ideas for novels, so it remains to be seen if anything she does will come close to her first.
  • Japanese author Koushun Takami has not written another novel since Battle Royale. After the original book received much international acclaim, and a film and manga adaptation a mere year after its 1999 release, not to mention renewed international interest thanks to the latter-day popularity of the very similar Hunger Games series, it's hard not to see why.
  • Frank Stockton's "His Wife's Deceased Sister" had fun with this idea. A struggling author writes a tragic short story with the aforementioned title, which is published to universal acclaim; but to his horror finds that no one will even consider publishing any of his subsequent works, none of them being considered even half as good as HWD'sS. In the end he is forced to write under a false name in order to make a living at all. Stockton would be rather familiar with this situation, as he is far better recognized as the author of The Lady Or The Tiger.
  • J. K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series, which became a cultural phenomenon and has earned over 10 billion dollars, not including book sales. She's acknowledged that nothing else she writes is remotely likely to approach that. However, she has proven herself not to be a one-hit wonder, given her non-Potter follow-ups (albeit two released under a undisguised pseudonym) have all been critically acclaimed best-sellers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • After the success of The Office, creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant actively parodied/dared people to invoke this trope in the lead-up and advertising for their next series Extras, which was essentially billed as "the show people are already calling 'the disappointing follow-up to The Office." Although Extras was largely praised as being just as good as their original series, comments of this nature could still nevertheless be heard from time to time.
  • On Saturday Night Live, when Norm MacDonald was fired in the midst of a mild controversy, Colin Quinn's first episode as the Weekend Update anchor acknowledged this trope essentially saying "don't shoot the new guy."
  • Everyone's favorite Doctor is a tough act to follow (not to name names; you know where the bases are broken.)
    • Some purists also apply this trope to the Modern Era (2005 onwards) versus the Classic Era (1963-1989). Certainly in terms of longevity the revival is unlikely to equal the original, although at eight seasons (as of 2014) it has already run longer than most English-language sci-fi series.
  • Chris Carter is a variant of this trope. He tried three different times to premiere new shows while his most famous show, and ultimately the only one that's remembered, The X-Files was on the air. These shows are: Millennium, a conspiracy show in a similar vein as The X-Files minus the paranormal angle; The Lone Gunmen, a spin-off of The X-Files featuring three of its most popular supporting characters; and Harsh Realm, a critically derided effort featuring characters trapped in a virtual reality. All three featured an attempt at crafting a Myth Arc much like that of The X-Files but all three failed to catch on and lasted less than one season (with the exception of Millenium which lasted 3, with the show being retooled beyond recognition each season). Millenium and The Lone Gunmen both received Fully Absorbed Finales on The X-Files and neither is remember as fondly. Harsh Realm on the other hand is almost not remembered at all. Since The X-Files' conclusion, Carter, who was once a well-known show runner on the same level as Joss Whedon, has mostly faded into obscurity, coming out of semi-retirement to write and direct an X-Files film which was not well received and failing (or possibly not attempting) to get any other series or films off the ground as of 2011.
  • Tony Hancock apparently sunk into a deep depression after his famous Blood Donor sketch. Most people couldn't understand why this could be, given how brilliant the sketch had been, but it was apparently because Hancock believed he would never ever top it.
    • It didn't help that he'd been the passenger in a car involved in a road traffic accident that same week. The reminder of his mortality seems to have had a very bad effect on him, in particular it probably contributed to his decision to split from writers Galton & Simpson, which in retrospect is recognised as a bad move.
  • The Super Sentai series experienced this throughout the early and mid 90's—Choujin Sentai Jetman was so immensely popular, that nearly every season that came after it in the next 9 years was seen as a huge step down (although Gosei Sentai Dairanger has been Vindicated by History as being a spectacular season in its own right). In 2000, when Mirai Sentai Timeranger began airing, the Jetman hype had finally died down, and even the hardcore Jetman fanbase was satisfied with Timerangers drama and story rivaling Jetman's.
    • General consensus was that Zyuranger and to a lesser extent Kakuranger were the only ones affected. Dairanger was an awesome series in its own right, and the other series were no slouches either (except for Ohranger, but it was because of other factors).
    • Played straight, however, by Tensou Sentai Goseiger, coming immediately after the dripping-with-awesome Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. It doesn't help matters that Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger came after it. Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters got exactly the same position, coming right off of the immense success that was Gokaiger.
  • There's the infamous "Seinfeld Curse" that allegedly prevents any of Seinfeld's four main cast members from achieving future success:
    • Jason Alexander had two failed sitcoms, Listen Upand Bob Patterson. He's consistently found supporting work in various movies and TV shows but is always seen as George Costanza, a fact he disdains so much that as of 2011 he started wearing a hairpiece to open up his acting opportunities.
    • A big victim is Michael Richards (Kramer), who basically retired from acting after The Michael Richards Show failed to catch on in 2000 because the main character was turned into a cheap Kramer clone thanks to Executive Meddling and Richards almost completely destroyed his reputation in 2006 when he hurled racial slurs at a heckler during his stand-up act. In the 12 years since The Michael Richards Show Richards has only returned to acting for a voice part in the Jerry Seinfeld written Bee Movie and an appearance as himself on co-creator Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm.
    • Its debatable as to whether or not Julia Louis-Dreyfus applies since after Seinfeld she took a break to be a mother to her children. After returning, she first starred in the failed sitcom Watching Ellie. Later she seemingly broke the curse with The New Adventures of Old Christine when she won an Emmy but then the show's ratings steadily plummeted til it was cancelled and forgotten. She currently starts in the HBO show Veep for which she won another Emmy.
    • Jerry Seinfeld himself largely sidestepped this, returning to stand-up and only doing the occassional one-off voice acting job.
    • Co-creator Larry David subverted this when his film Sour Grapes bombed critically and commercially but his second series Curb Your Enthusiasm became a hit in its own right.
  • Keeping with the Sentai trend, Power Rangers Samurai. The show isn't without its faults, but the series would have likely been better received had it not been adapted from Samurai Sentai Shinkenger (a very well-received Sentai) and following Power Rangers RPM (considered one of—if not the—best season that Power Rangers has ever done). Similar things could be said about Wild Force coming behind Time Force, and Turbo never stood a chance after Zeo. To varying extents, this happened to every series set after Power Rangers in Space, which not only managed to Win Back the Crowd after Turbo's lukewarm reception, but was the Grand Finale of a Story Arc starting with the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (remember, in Space was originally going to be the last Rangers season, so it needed to end with a bang). As all subsequent seasons are (mostly) self-contained, standalone works with only about 30 episodes to develop character and whatnot, they tend to fall short of a saga that had a six season buildup and was more or less at the apex of the Cerebus Rollercoaster by its end.
  • The Oprah Winfrey Show enjoyed reverence, and ended partly because Oprah felt that she couldn't top herself. However, Oprah's television network is struggling.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation managed to step out of the shadow of the original show, but it made every subsequent Trek franchise feel rather lacking.
  • The Prisoner: Actor Patrick McGoohan actually left the UK shortly after the controversial final episode aired and settled in the US, and his only television series since then (Rafferty) has been long forgotten except by die-hard cult fans. He did have some sporadic success in the US, notably when working with Peter Falk on some Emmy-winning episodes of Columbo but The Prisoner completely overshadows all his other work. (Indeed, one of his Columbo episodes was essentially a riff on The Prisoner, and a film he starred in called Kings and Desperate Men not only was directed by and co-starred one of his Prisoner actors, but it revisited many of the earlier show's themes.
  • James Gandolfini didn't work very much after completing The Sopranos and never matched its success until his sudden death from a heart attack in 2013.
  • The Shield writer Shawn Ryan's career has staggered (his follow-up shows The Chicago Code and Terriers and his time working as show-runner of "Lie To Me" was largely ignored by most).
  • Dan Schneider has made some of Nickelodeon's most well-known and popular successes, like Drake & Josh, Zoey 101 and iCarly. His 2010 creation, Victorious, on the other hand, has been panned by quite a few fans of the former works (especially iCarly considering the shows ran alongside each other for a while) for not being what they were. The fact that the show was constantly promoted by the iCarly cast doesn't help either (because the not fans of Victorious found that infuriating). While most fans of Dan's past works liked it, even part of those fans felt that the second season was significantly lower quality than the first, but the third season rattled the line between being better than ever and even worse. The show ultimately met its untimely end after the third season's filming. The show did win Favorite TV Show at the 2013 Kids Choice Awards, however, which was the second year in running, so it didn't end on a completely bad note.
  • Sam & Cat, which is what Victorious was reportedly canned for, has been received worse than the former. It did get the 2014 Kids' Choice Awards which made sense being it was the only Nick show nominated (compared to the Victorious/iCarly wars of years' past), and was riding on Ariana Grande's huge popularity, so its win was justified.
  • The Wire is regarded by many TV critics as one of, if not the, best television show ever made. David Simon's follow-up, Treme has been chugging along in relative obscurity, which is admittedly what The Wire did for most of its run as well. Within the run of the series itself, there are many who cite the fourth season as one of, if not THE greatest season in all of television. By contrast, quite a number of fans and critics complained that the fifth (and final) season was hindered by Simon hanging his dirty laundry out to dry (particularly regarding its criticism of journalism, which echoed Simon's real life feelings on the Baltimore Sun). Luckily, those critics still cite the series finale as among the greatest episodes the show had done, so the show was still able to finish on a high note.
  • David Milch hit big with Deadwood, which achieved a lot of cultural saturation in spite of not being a ratings powerhouse. Neither of Milch's follow-up series, John From Cincinnati and Luck, made it to a second season.
  • The fifth season of 24 was universally acclaimed and managed to net the series the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama. Season six however, suffered from poor writing and is easily regarded as one of the worst of the show, with the , with the biggest problem coming from the writers trying to find a way to top season five's shocks early on, only to run out of steam immediately after that. Seasons 7 and/or 8 , depending on who you ask, either improved the series after the sixth season slump or marked when the show officially Jumped the Shark, but its clear that both of them wound up living in the fifth season's shadow as well.
  • With Breaking Bad already going down as one of the greatest series in television history, with many critics even going so far as to call it the modern Shakespearean tragedy, and having ended in a blaze of glory, both critically and commercially, its creator, Vince Gilligan, has already resigned himself to the fact that he will likely NEVER hit the same level again.
    • This came up within the series itself. The third to last episode of the series, "Ozymandias" is almost universally regarded as both the best episode of the series and one of the best episodes ever aired on television. The two final episodes of the series are widely regarded as superb in their own right and an excellent ending to the series, but many feel that they suffered a little, for no other reason than being forced to follow the universal praise for "Ozymandias".
  • It was unlikely The Thin Blue Line was ever going to be better than Ben Elton and Rowan Atkinson's previous work on Blackadder.
  • When Bob Barker retired as host of The Price Is Right in 2007, his successor Drew Carey quickly fell under this trope — possibly because Carey was taking the reins of the longest-running daytime game show ever, despite Whose Line Is It Anyway? being the closest he ever done to a game show beforehandnote . Granted, Bob had hosted for a whopping 35 years (and had hosted Truth or Consequences for 19 years on top of that), so just about anyone would have had a tough time following Barker.
  • When the 2014 version of Cosmos was first announced, the makers cited this trope directly with regards to the 1980 original.

    Music 
  • In 1992, Flatwoods, Kentucky native Billy Ray Cyrus hit right off the bat with "Achy Breaky Heart," the song that practically began the country line-dance craze. Despite having several more country hits and parlaying that success into several long-running TV series — "Doc" and, with daughter Miley, the Disney Channel series Hannah Montana — there are some who will never think of Billy Ray as more as that long-haired boy from the Kentucky backwoods who "got lucky with a bad dance song." (which was a Black Sheep Hit to boot)
  • ?uestlove, drummer for The Roots, said this about the trope in an interview:
    "For anyone that's ever had a musical breakthrough in their career, it's always followed by the departure period right after. Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life gave you Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants. Prince's Purple Rain gave you Around the World in a Day. The Beatles' Revolver gave you Sgt. Pepper's — which kind of backfired and made them even bigger."
  • Any One-Hit Wonder.
  • Don McLean may be the biggest example, never being able to create anything close to the success of "American Pie."
    • Part of the problem was that it was a different type of song from the rest of what he did, so his other good songs were legitimately worse than American Pie by the measures of the people who preferred it, and many of the people who would have liked his other songs didn't bother listening to the further discography of "that guy who wrote American Pie."
      • Though it never reached the sales success of American Pie, his song Vincent, a heartfelt love-letter to impressionist painter Van Gogh, was truly a tearjerker, and has a small but loyal fanbase.
  • Bone Thugs-n-Harmony can't make a album without people bitching about it not being like E.1999 Eternal (or The Art Of War, depending on who you ask).
  • Nas is always in the shadow of his classic debut Illmatic. Nothing he has made after that has been as acclaimed. He came close with Stillmatic, though.
    • Some go as far to say that none of his songs top "Live at the BBQ."
  • Michael Jackson's Thriller. There are some who believe he grew as a artist afterward, but his personal life and Thriller overshadowed that growth.
  • Hootie & the Blowfish's Cracked Rear View is their dark cloud. However, lead singer Darius Rucker went on to have a fairly sucessful career in Country Music over a decade later.
  • Alt/Rap group Arrested Development went through this after their debut album. Most credit their downfall mostly to Hype Backlash rather than a lack of good music.
  • The (semi-)collective and solo careers of The Beatles, certainly after their 1970 breakup, can count. Paul McCartney's every step of late qualifies, particularly after John Lennon's death, not only for the Beatles, but his past solo/Wings glories (Band On The Run, for example). Possibly much of the negative criticism he has received is magnified by his participation in one of the 20th century's most successful pop songwriting teams. Lennon likely fared not much better in his solo career.
    • Lennon does fare slightly better, largely owing to his tragic and untimely death and his tendency towards Creator Breakdown fostering a True Art Is Angsty mindset to his work. However, it's notable that on compliation albums of Lennon's solo material, the same songs tend to appear; general consensus remains that neither Lennon or McCartney were as good solo as they were together.
  • Pietro Mascagni and his career after Cavalleria Rusticana (Countryside Knighthood). He was once interviewed and asked why he never made another Opera after Cavalleria Rusticana. He had a sad moment and then melancholically said "I did. I made a lot of other works. But no one seems to care."
  • One of Felix Mendelssohn's first works was the Op. 21, the overture for A Midsummer Night's Dream, and some claimed it indicated talent greater than that of Mozart. While not a failure, none of his later works ever reached the prominence of this one, composed when he was 17 years old.
    • Except for the wedding march from Op. 61, incidental music for the same play expanding on the overture he already wrote.
    • Mendelssohn had a number of other works that are also very popular and successful, including his symphonies and violin concerto, but most of these were written several years after A Midsummer Night's Dream. (And then he died young.) This tends to be common among composers; since they often produce many individual works instead of a smaller number of collections (e.g. albums) like pop musicians do, it is unlikely that two consecutive works will be considered among their best.
  • Oasis averted this with their second album (What's The Story) Morning Glory?, which sold better and as well-received by critics as their debut Definitely Maybe. The ones that followed, however, spawned successful singles but weren't in the standards of the first two.
    • Their third album, Be Here Now, not only failed to live up to the hype but also managed to kill the Britpop movement (debatable, since all their contemporaries had already done a Genre Shift or faded into obscurity by then).
  • Also a problem of Pearl Jam after the release of Ten; the albums that came after couldn't really live up much to the success of it.
    • In fact Pearl Jam were consciously aware of this, and more or less intentionally sabotaged their own career to a certain extent so they wouldn't become major rock stars. Vitalogy, their third album, was initially released on vinyl, and only released on CD and cassette two weeks later, meaning it was only available on an effectively dead format for the first several weeks of its release.
    • Vs. has become one of these on a critical level, and has built a reputation as their pivotal moment of creativity and passion. Everything afterwards is considered either a clumsily-concieved experiment or a tired retread.
  • Country music singer Cyndi Thomson stopped recording because she couldn't handle the pressure of a second album. To this day, she remains a One-Hit Wonder with "What I Really Meant to Say".
  • Carl Orff disowned everything he had written before Carmina Burana. His later works, while not entirely unknown, are largely overshadowed (and it doesn't help that some of them quote words from Carmina Burana).
  • Natalie Imbruglia and "Torn", as well as the fact unbeknownst to most it was a cover, almost everything she's done afterwards has never quite lived up to the massive success of her debut single. It even holds a place as the most played track on Australian radio since 1990 as of May 2009, about 11 years after its release.
  • The Eagles certainly realised that Hotel California was going to be a Tough Act to Follow. Not only did their next album, The Long Run, fail to live up to that challenge, but the stress of striving to make it do so was one of the main factors in the subsequent breakup of the group.
  • Mayhem will always be remembered primarily for their debut album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Every subsequent album has been nowhere near as widely acclaimed.
  • Slayer knew that they couldn't follow up their 1986 album Reign In Blood with faster guitarwork, so they made a deliberate decision to slow down for 1988's South Of Heaven.
  • The Strokes. Their first album, Is This It, was released to massive critical acclaim and is often named as one of the greatest albums ever created. While all of their follow-up albums are very good, they will forever be eclipsed by it.
  • The Cars, after a successful run of singles in the late 70's and early 80's, had one of the top-selling albums of the decade with their 1984 album, Heartbeat City. The innovative video for "You Might Think," won the first MTV Video Music Award for "Best Video," and they followed that up with hits (promoted with groundbreaking videos) like "Drive" (their first Top 10 hit in the UK), "Magic," "Why Can't I Have You," the title track, and "Hello Again." A successful tour followed which brought them to Live Aid. Aside from a Greatest Hits album with the single "Tonight She Comes," they took a hiatus from 1985-1987, they released one more album, Door To Door, which largely failed to make an impact, and they were unable to fill arenas. Only one major hit was released, "You Are The Girl." They broke up amicably in 1988. Bandleader Ric Ocasek maintained a low-profile solo career, bassist/vocalist Benjamin Orr died of pancreatic cancer, and drummer David Robinson retired. guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes largely laid low, except to form "The New Cars" with Todd Rundgren replacing Ocasek. Ocasek, Easton, Hawkes and Robinson did finally get back together in 2010, releasing Move Like This a year later - instead of drafting a new member, Easton and Hawkes alternated playing bass and Ocasek sang lead for the whole album. Of course, Move Like This didn't match the success of their earlier material, but it did meet with generally positive reviews and debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
  • Mike Oldfield has never done anything else as brilliant as his debut album Tubular Bells (which made Richard Branson very, very rich). There was certainly a radical change after Incantations and only Tubular Bells 2 (a very clever rewrite of the original) and Amarok have been anything like it.
  • George Michael and his Faith album of 1987. It didn't help to have more challenging and introspective follow-up albums, constant Take Thats at his sex symbol image in later videos, a scandal which outed him in the mid-1990's, problems with his record labels, and drug- and alcohol-related run-ins with the law over the years.
  • Even the kindest reviews of Weezer's latest material will usually have the aside: "It's not as good as The Blue Album or Pinkerton, but..."
    • Pinkerton itself was one, receiving some backlash for being too different from the successful debut, but it was Vindicated by History.
  • Jay-Z is a weird hybrid of this trope and Broken Base. His first album Reasonable Doubt is considered a hip-hop classic. But he has since made albums that is at least five times more popular financially. But people still put Reasonable Doubt as his top record artistically, and critically, even above his second best album The Blueprint.
  • Dream Theater's Falling Into Infinity isn't a terrible album by any means, but the fact that it came on the heels of Images and Words and Awake (two of the most acclaimed Progressive Metal albums ever) meant that just about everyone was disappointed by it. To a degree, every subsequent album (except for maybe Scenes from a Memory) is inevitably compared to Images and Words and Awake.
  • Natasha Bedingfield's two singles "Single" and "I Bruise Easily" underperformed, partially because they were both released after her monster hit "Unwritten," which radio stations simply refused to let die. It wasn't until "Pocketful of Sunshine" that things got back on track.
  • Delta Goodrem's Innocent Eyes is exactly this, 4.5 million copies world wide, number one at the ARIA's for 29 weeks, coupled with the Tall Poppy Syndrome when her second album came out. She may be justified in wanting a break now and again. Still Australia's princess never the less.
  • Evanescence's Fallen is still the go to record for alot of people's "teen angst" stage and was a HUGE success for the band selling 17 million world wide and top three in the Billboard charts. Sadly everything released afterwards has only been received at a temperature of lukewarm or ignored outright; the departure of primary songwriter Ben Moody is an easily pinpointable catalyst.
  • Boston's self titled album was the (then) highest selling debut album of all time with 17 million copies sold and spawned songs that are played repeatedly on any classic rock station. None of the four albums since have reached that amount of success and aren't well remembered out of some of the band's more hardcore fans.
  • In 2006, a country music band called Heartland had a number one hit with "I Loved Her First." This was quite a feat, as a.) it was the first top 40 hit ever for their label, Lofton Creek Records, and b.) they became only the second band in the history of country music to send a debut single to #1 (Diamond Rio was the first). Then the label dropped the ball massively by flip-flopping on what the second single would be. The original plan was for "Let's Get Dirty," but the label heads changed their minds and went with "Built to Last," very similar in sound to "I Loved Her First." After "Built to Last" amassed a single week at #58, they went with "Let's Get Dirty" but it went nowhere. Heartland ended up changing labels twice but still have nothing to show for it.
  • Metallica has had plenty of trouble following up Master of Puppets, especially thanks to the tragic death of Cliff Burton and introduction of Replacement Goldfish Jason, who, no matter your opinion of him, was nowhere near the musical force that Cliff was.
  • Most older Mariah Carey fans will tell you that 1995 until 2000 was both her creative, commercial and critical peak. During that time period, she had 3 platinum-selling hit albums (one of which has since gone DIAMOND), a special compilation that featured every #1 hit she had up until that point (13 of them, only 8 years in to her career), and amassed 7 number one hits (which gave her a #1 for every year of the 1990s). All of her post-comeback work has been compared by the fandom to that period in her career, with the consensus being that her 2009 "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" is the closest she has ever come to returning to her late-90s peak—well, at least creatively. Critically and commercially speaking, that would have to be her 2005 comeback, "The Emancipation of Mimi," where not only did she almost break her own record that she set 10 years prior (her 1995 hit, "One Sweet Day" spent a record-breaking 16 weeks at #1 and her 2005 hit, "We Belong Together" spent 14 weeks at #1), but she also set a Billboard achievement by being the first female artist to occupy the top 2 positions on the charts (her #2 hit was "Shake It Off").
  • Sir Elton John had a critically winning period from 1970's Self-Titled Album until 1973's classic Double Album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Even when the reviews got worse (and he occasionally delivered relatively lackluster albums that still produced hits), he had a financially successful streak from 1972 to 1976, when he was the biggest-selling most popular male solo act in The Seventies. His friend John Lennon was quoted in an interview as saying that Elton was biggest thing to come along since The Beatles came along. The period was also marked with Elton wearing elaborate, crazy costumes, glasses, theatrics and wardrobe, and he even reached Teen Idol status. Following his self-outing in Rolling Stone magazine in 1976, and a 10-Minute Retirement a year later, his popularity fell fast. He's been largely unable to repeat his 1970-76 success since. He's had a few career comebacks, a sobering-up in the early '90s, and an Oscar for co-writing songs for The Lion King, but nothing compared to his glam period.
  • For over 15 years, Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon had no trouble following up a critically acclaimed album. The two band's albums were consistently loved and praised. Then in 2008, somehow he outdid everything he had done before with Sun Kil Moon's April and the two albums since have been showing some disappointed reactions as they aren't as dark as April. Mark shows the pressure he's under in his latest album by giving off a bit of ego.
  • This happened twice to Green Day. In 1994, their major label debut Dookie brought punk back to the mainstream and sold 14 million copies. Their followups Insomniac and Nimrod each sold into the millions, but far less than their predecessor, and they hit a low point with Warning, their most experimental release up to that point, which sold only half a million copies. Then came American Idiot, widely considered their Magnum Opus—a rock opera that incorporated a drastically new arena rock sound influenced by The Who and Queen and became one of the epochal albums of the first decade of the 2000s, selling over 15 million copies and later becoming a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. Their next effort, another Concept Album entitled 21stCenturyBreakdown, took them five years to record, and while it was their best-charting release to date, it sold only 5 million copies (though this could be because of a huge increase in music piracy since American Idiot 's release in 2004). It remains to be seen how their next effort, a trilogy of albums called Uno!, Dos!, and Trč!, respectively, will fare.
  • Cracked's "5 Works of Art So Good, They Ruined Their Whole Genre" calls David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust a tough act to follow in glam rock and two Bob Marley albums tough acts to follow in reggae.
  • Pink Floyd admitted that they struggled with this trope when trying to come up with a new album after The Dark Side of the Moon.
  • In November 2012, Kevin Shields announced a follow-up to Loveless. That is, the album which completely defined the entire Shoegazing movement and effectively destroyed the genre in 1991.
  • Played straight (maybe unwillingly) by swedish prog act Pain Of Salvation. 2000's "The Perfect Element. Part I" was just Exactly What It Says on the Tin according to fans and critics, and it's their most regarded album to date. Then came 2007's Scarsick. Even though Daniel Gildenlow claimed to be "part II of The Perfect Element", the majority of their fanbase and critics tend to disregard it as such. Scarsick is not a bad album in and out of itself (for the genre it's classified under, mind you), but one would think if you make a sequel to a work, you would at least try to make it in the same vein and style of the previous album.
  • Averted frequently, and magnificently, by Porcupine Tree. All along the road this band has switched genres (with the same frequency as Jennifer Lopez goes from one boyfriend to another, but I digress), yet they're somehow able to make at least one outstanding album for each period the band has been into. "The Sky Moves Sideways" was considered their first masterpiece in the "Pink Floyd/King Crimson-esque" british prog rock approach, until Signify appeared in 1996. Enter 1999 and Stupid Dream, their most acclaimed album when it comes to "alternative pop/rock". 2002 delivered us "In Absentia", not only their most popular and well regarded work in their "Progressive Metal" period, but in their entire discography. And their albums "Fear of a Blank Planet" and "The Incident" (not exactly best-sellers, but definitive cult albums in the countries where they're the most popular, such as Netherlands and Mexico) are solid evidence that this band isn't afraid to keep experimenting while going back and forth their musical roots all the way. Their quality has been so consistent throughout the years, a lot of people consider the band itself to be the Tough Act to Follow from within the british progressive rock scene, more than them releasing an album as good as the previous one.
    • Band leader Steven Wilson is a well-known perfectionist and a full-time music person, so it comes as no surprise this is the key for their constant success. Most of Porcupine Tree's albums take from 2 to 4 years of completion, in order for the transitions between the songs and the overall music to sound cohesive and coherent, yet feel fresh; something hard to achieve in a genre so musically nitpicky and technically-sided as progressive rock is (the fact all members of the band are involved in a ton of other side and solo projects doesn't help them meet their deadlines either).
  • In his song Till I Collapse, rapper Eminem remarks as to how people think that he would never top ''My Name Is''. Of course he was more than happy to prove them wrong.
  • Producer first and rapper second, Dr. Dre found this out the hard way with his second album The Aftermath. His second effort was ripped apart by both the critics and the fans. Unlike his first album, The Chronic, which was considered one of the greatest rap albums of all time and helped pushed the genre into the mainstream.
  • Live managed to live up to the expectations laid by their Cult Classic Mental Jewelry with their multi-platinum breakout Throwing Copper, featuring a rich arrangement of well-written and creatively crafted gems. Every album since then has been considered either a crushing disappointment or outright non-existent.
  • Faith No More ended up with two of these: The Real Thing on a commercial level and Angel Dust on a creative level. It didn't help that Jim Martin, the guitarist who played on both albums, was jettisoned from the group. The band pressed on trying to carve a niche for themselves with King For a Day, Fool For a Lifetime, but when it came time to record Album of the Year it became apparent to the band that their songwriting was sliding into irrelevance, and became a major factor in their 1998 breakup. Mike Patton himself said in an interview, "We started making bad music." Most fans agree that Angel Dust is a level of artistic achievement that can never again be replicated.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Though they were both as funny as their predecessor, neither one of Berkeley Breathed's post-Bloom County comics—Outland and Opus—had the same wide circulation and notability that Bloom County enjoyed in its heyday.

    Pinball 
  • Most of Pat Lawlor's pins after The Addams Family and The Twilight Zone are unfairly dismissed by players just because they fail (or are perceived to fail) to live up to the lofty standards set by those two blockbusters.

    Sports 
  • Any team that was led to success by a standout athlete has trouble after he goes away - best example being the Michael Jordan-less Chicago Bulls.
    • Or the Denver Broncos without John Elway. It's actually eerie how similar those two turned out: Jordan was universally regarded as basketball's greatest player, while Elway was a top class quarterback. Both retired in 1999 after winning championships, and neither team has truly recovered. (Of course, Jordan came back with another team, but we prefer to not think about that)
    • Another would be the 49ers without Jerry Rice or Montana.
      • In some ways this can be subverted, for instance Kobe Bryant is just as beloved as Magic Johnson. How? Because he has a completely different playing style and personality. Same for Larry Bird and Bill Russell. Of course, they all have championship rings too, which helps.
    • In Formula One, Ferrari after Michael Schumacher. Or any other team.
      • Schumacher's career after he returned to the sport after retirement. The most race wins in Formula One history, most driver championships and all around legendary. Naturally it would be impossible for him to live up to his own record since he hadn't raced in F1 for a number of years and he wasn't in a team as good as Ferrari. Initially he got some flack (which everybody noted for being unreasonable) for not being his "old self" but his post-retirement career has been respectable. Fortunately, this made Kimi Raikkonen's return to the sport easier as people accepted that they couldn't expect too much - his post-retirement career has been equally respectable.
      • In Brazil, anyone after Senna - Rubens Barrichello in particular got some flack from being the new Brazilian driver but unlike Senna not having his prowess, powerful car or luck, until, that is, he pulled the proverbial rabbit out of his hat by beating The Stig!
    • Every Brazilian National Football (Soccer) Team after the Pelé-led team of 1970. Teams of 1982 and 2002 have come close.
    • Also in soccer: the USA women's national team after the groundbreaking World Cup champions of 1999. Despite four Olympic golds since then, the current women still haven't gotten out from under the shadow of the 1999 team. The 2011 World Cup team came close, but lost to Japan in the final.
    • The New York Yankees will never be as loved as when they had Babe Ruth. They probably will never even be as loved as when they had Mickey Mantle. Feared, yes...
    • Bill Mazeroski, the Hall of Fame second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, called his walk-off home run to win the 1960 World Series to complete an upset of the Yankees "a curse in disguise." He was never a prolific hitter, and outside of Pirates fans, people saw only that home run, not realizing he is the best defensive second baseman to have ever played the game.
    • Roger Maris, after breaking Babe Ruth's single season record for home runs claimed the rest of his career would have been "a helluva lot more fun" had he never done that.
    • Any league with a salary cap essentially forces this as any team with a surprisingly good year is forced to get rid of half their players since they're now demanding pay raises, especially if they win the championship. Aversions happen in teams that are centered around a few key players or have excellent general managers.
  • Any sensational record in any sports.
    • At the 1968 Summer Olympics, Bob Beamon set a world record for the long jump with a jump of 8.90 m. Prior to this, the world record had been broken thirteen times since 1901, with an average increase of 6 cm; Beamon's jump bettered the existing record by 55 cm. The defending Olympic champion, Lynn Davies told Beamon, "You have destroyed this event." The record stood until 1991. Beamon himself never won another Olympic medal.
  • The absolutely daunting task that any future Olympic Games swimmer will have to face if they try to defeat Michael Phelps' record in Beijing 2008 of winning 8 gold medals in a single Olympics.
    • And as of London 2012, with a grand total of 22 medals (18 gold, 2 silver, and 2 bronze) to his name, Phelps is the most decorated Olympian EVER in any event.
  • As for personal tough acts to follow, quintuple Olympic ski jumping champion Matti Nykänen is a particularly sad case - not only did his sports career plummet with his failure in adopting the modern V style, so did his life. From The Other Wiki: since the 1990s, his status as a celebrity has mainly been fuelled (...) by his colourful personal relationships, his "career" as a "singer," and various incidents often related to heavy use of alcohol and violent behaviour.
  • Brett Favre, after signing with the Minnesota Vikings, had the best season of his carrer, almost taking the team to the Super Bowl. The second season with them...well...
  • When Andy Roddick won his first Grand Slam and became the World No. 1 in 2003, he was expected to continue the dominant American Tennis tradition on the heels of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Unfortunately, Roger Federer shot to the top of the tennis world soon after and Roddick would never again win a Slam or hold the No. 1 position, but it's a sure bet that even if Federer hadn't been around to beat Roddick in four Slam finals, he would still have been doomed to fall short of Sampras's 14 Slams and Agassi's 8 in spite of being good enough to be included in the Tennis Channel's list of top 100 players.
    • In 2012, Novak Djokovic won one Grand Slam, the year-end championships, a total of six titles, and finished the year as No. 1, which would qualify as an incredible season by any reasonable standard — but since this came right after his otherworldly 2011 season in which he won three Grand Slams and went undefeated for over 40 matches, the general consensus of his 2012 season was that it was "good, but not as good as his 2011 season."
  • The 70s dynasty of the "Steel Curtain" Pittsburgh Steelers is not only hard to follow for the franchise itself, but also for most teams in the NFL, even the ones that succeeded in creating Super Bowl winning dynasties themselves.
  • It's common in season previews to treat the last champion that retained its core players with "anything less than a repeat will be a disappointment for fans".

    Theater 
  • Gilbert and Sullivan struggled with this after the mega-hit, The Mikado. Gilbert darkly suggested renaming their next operetta, Ruddigore, to Kensington Gore: Or, Not Quite So Good as The Mikado. Ruddigore was erroneously considered a flop in Gilbert's lifetime; Special Effect Failure on its opening night may have contributed to its underwhelming reception. 20th century revivals restored the work's reputation.
  • Meredith Willson's first Broadway musical, The Music Man, achieved great popular and critical success. Of his three subsequent musicals, each was less successful and less distinguished than the previous one, with his final show (1491) closing before reaching Broadway.
  • Mitch Leigh had an even worse record: all the musicals he wrote after Man of La Mancha were atrocious flops.
  • Pietro Mascagni, whose fame rests on his debut Cavalleria Rusticana, went on to compose another 14 operas. All are forgotten by the time of his death. It is especially lamentable because, as the rare revivals attest, some of these works (like Iris and Il piccolo Marat) show great artistic vision and experimentation. But sorry, the public is looking for another Cav.
  • The Phantom of the Opera is this for Andrew Lloyd Webber — while several of his subsequent shows did decent/fine business in his native England (Sunset Boulevard also did well in the U.S.), he's never had another international sensation along the lines of Evita, Cats, Starlight Express, or Phantom. In 2010 he brought out a sequel to Phantom, Love Never Dies, but its reception has been extremely mixed.
  • For Lerner and Loewe, one reason Camelot disappointed so many people was that it was their follow-up to the sensation that was My Fair Lady.
  • Boublil and Schonberg followed up Les Misérables with Miss Saigon, a critical and popular smash that introduced the world to a seventeen-year-old Filipina phenom named Lea Salonga. But not even Miss Saigon can top the longest-running, best-written, best-loved, best-known, and quite possibly best musical ever produced. Interestingly, Les Mis is so good that no one really cares what Boublil and Schonberg have gotten up to since - they wrote Les Mis and are therefore entitled to write whatever else they damn please.
  • Even though Stephen Schwartz was well known at the time, this could almost be said to apply to Wicked. Nothing he did before it even comes close to Wicked 's level of popularity and revivals of some of his older work (notably Godspell which is returning to Broadway) now carry the advertisement: "From the creator of Wicked" (with occasionally Pippin being mentioned as an afterthought).

    Toys 
  • The story of BIONICLE was so, well, huge, that its successor line Hero Factory gets a considerable amount of hate for its bare-bones, simple-to-follow plot and minimalistic characterization. Complainers tend to overlook the fact that even so, HF's story is still a tad more complex than that of an average, non-licensed LEGO line, and its characters are among the most developed of any original-LEGO characters (if still far from Bionicle's). LEGO themselves consider HF a wholly separate entity — a line that occupies the same niche as Bionicle, but it's not a follow-up. Further, they deliberately set out to avoid creating another complicated universe such as that of Bionicle, partly because of this trope, but mostly because a simpler story is easier to promote to younger kids, which the Periphery Demographic has a hard time realizing.

    Video Games 
  • Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc is not called a bad game, but considering it was a follow-up to one of the most critically acclaimed, best-selling 3-D platformers of all time, being what is considered the Magnum Opus of UbiSoft, its critical reception and sales did not live up to the previous game. Some have speculated that Rayman 3's underwhelming performance was why Rayman 4 was retooled from another 3-D platformer into the mini-game centric Rayman Raving Rabbids, as well as why another Rayman platformer was put on ice for years until Rayman Origins came around.
  • While still being good, Generation 3 of Pokémon had to follow up Generation 2, which is widely regarded as the best in the series (until their Generation 4 remakes). The fact that they downplayed the time factor and the exclusion of many Pokémon didn't help matters either. Generation 5 is said to be a new tough act to follow as well.
    • Generation 5 had a hard time following itself. Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, despite introducing loads of new features, were also received partly unfavorably by both critics and the fans for not being what Pokémon Black and White were (lacking the story that what made the original games, and traces of difficulty).
    • On a similar note, the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series has been highly regarded for its story and gameplay elements that variate from the main series. However, the 3DS installment Gates to Infinity has also received quite a bit of panning from fans for not being what the first two were; most complaints being in regards to the story (Which is considered by most to be weaker then Explorers) and the small number of Pokemon available as starter/partner choices and for recruitment.
    • Generation 6 has it tougher than Black and White. While the plot isn't bad by any means, it didn't stand a chance compared to Black and White, which are widely agreed to have had the best plot of the series. The fact that the game introduced about 70 Pokémon, the least of any generation, was also all the more noticeable proceeding Gen 5, which introduced over 150, the most of any generation.
  • Chrono Cross was cursed from the beginning to never be as popular as Chrono Trigger, one of the most beloved games ever made.
  • Games designer Will Wright seems to be heading in this direction, considering the general reaction to his latest game, Spore (along with later entries to the SimCity franchise), hasn't been nearly as warm as with his seminal masterpiece, The Sims. (The quote from Yahtzee up top is from Zero Punctuation's review of Spore.)
    • Wright wasn't responsible for the latest iterations of SimCity; he and Maxis haven't been involved with the series since SimCity 4, which is often regarded as its apex.
  • Apparently, Hideo Kojima regrets being remembered only for the Metal Gear series, which overshadowed his earlier games and whose shadow looms on every possible future title.
  • Final Fantasy:
  • BioShock 2 is a decently good game, but it lives in the shadow of BioShock, one of the most renowned and critically acclaimed games of all time. Had it been released as its own animal, it might've gotten decent recognition; as is, it's often seen as little more than a pale imitation, repeating most of the same steps the original took in the hopes of creating the same magic while introducing an element of chaotic multiplayer into a game about fear and isolation. BioShock Infinite, however, averted this and received praise on equal level to the original, some even finding themselves preferring Infinite over the original.
  • Super Metroid set a standard for every subsequent game in the Metroid series and (by extension) the Metroidvania genre in general. This was the only reason we didn't get Metroid 64, as the creator said almost word for word that Super Metroid was a Tough Act to Follow.
  • Metroid Prime was fantastically well-received, smashing through the Polygon Ceiling and successfully switching genres from platformer to FPS while appeasing the fans. Once the Prime subseries ended, the next 3D Metroid title was Metroid: Other M, which had a very hard time following up both Retro Studios' games and Super Metroid.
  • Deus Ex, naturally. Provided you accept that there were acts that followed it at all; quite a lot of fans don't.
  • The original Yoshi's Island: Super Mario World 2 was a great game, seen as a classic entry in the Mario series in all respects. However, Yoshi's Story and Yoshi's Island DS, despite being good games on their own, got incredibly badly overshadowed by the original, to the point of the former being ripped apart for not being the same style and general gameplay as Yoshi's Island. They listened with Yoshi's New Island, but then people started complaining It's the Same, Now It Sucks.
  • One of the reasons why Duke Nukem Forever festered as long in development as it did, according to a Wired article, was simply because 3D Realms wanted their game to be as groundbreaking as Duke Nukem 3D was back in its day. As a result, they were constantly adding more and more new features into the game, upgrading the technology and occasionally starting the entire project from scratch because what they had wasn't up to par, until they ran out of funding in 2009 and Gearbox finished off what they had two years later.
  • The reason less like Donkey Kong Country 3 compared to the second game. The second game was (and still is) the generally most well received in the series, and the very different style of the third is something that seems to have not quite lived up it in the same way.
    • Donkey Kong Country Returns would have been a lot more well-received, if it didn't have the Donkey Kong Country label. While a great game standing alone from the others, it was criticized because of the ditching of ice and underwater levels, having all Kongs but Donkey, Diddy, and Cranky suffer Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, and having the Tiki Tak Tribe replace the Kremling Krew. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze , the follow-up, fixed all these problems but the last one, but made the new villains in that game seem more like Expies of the Kremlings rather than entirely new antagonists.
  • In hindsight, Harmonix choosing to craft their first single-artist Rock Band game around the musical output of The Beatles might have been a poorly considered move in the long term, because no matter how great your music is, it's very, very difficult to find another group as universally beloved as The Beatles. So who did they pick for their next game? Green Day.
    • After making two overwhelmingly popular franchises, Harmonix announced that they were making a game based off of Disney's legendary Fantasia films. So far what they had shown failed to impress fans as the gameplay requires you to use your arms rather than using your whole body like in Dance Central. And the song count is quite low compared to their other games. Fans are still waiting for the next Dance Central or Rock Band to be announced.
  • The Paper Mario series is falling apart because of the role-playing game Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door being a Tough Act to Follow, with its good battle system, horde of Ensemble Darkhorses, Awesome Music, and hilarious, heartwarming, and sometimes sad plotline. Nintendo feared It's the Same, Now It Sucks for its sequels, so both Super Paper Mario and Paper Mario: Sticker Star have both went under an Unexpected Genre Change, to platformer and sticker-collecting Metroidvania respectively. Fans missed the classic elements and are still longing for a true successor today.
  • At this point, the entire Castlevania series is trapped in the shadow of the Symphony of the Night. On a smaller scale, Aria of Sorrow was really well received for a unique battle system of collecting souls from defeated enemies (at random) and a great Tomato Surprise Plot Twist of the game's protagonist. The sequel was So Okay, It's Average with no new approach and just a rehash of the first bit, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin is often considered either Itsthe Same Now It Sucks or It's Easy, so It Sucks, and Castlevania Order Of Ecclessia is, while well received (And Nintendo Hard) a form of a stale formula. The game after that was the ''Lords of Shadow Continuity Reboot.
  • Most of the Classic Mega Man series' sequels (and their soundtracks) generally aren't considered quite as good and memorable as Mega Man 2. 9, however, was good enough to revive the series and surpass 2's level of quality and popularity. This naturally became apparent, once 10 came out, divided the fanbase again and performed below sales expectations. The only real alternatives to MM2 you'll see fans frequently mention are Mega Man 3 and Mega Man V, and when discussing sequel series Mega Man X, the only title seen on equal footing with the first is Mega Man X4.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is generally considered to be one of the greatest games in the franchise, and by many outside of it one of the greatest games ever. Future games in the series, while still very good, garner complaints because of how unlike (or, sometimes, how like) Ocarina of Time they are.
  • The Silent Hill series has struggled in the shadow of its second incarnation through four sequels, numerous comics and its film release. Silent Hill 2 is widely regarded as the definitive installment, which tragically influenced its subsequent media by having various elements recur when they were either unwelcome or poorly implemented (Sexy Monster Nurses, Pyramid Head, solipsistic protagonists fighting through suppressed trauma). While Team Silent's third and fourth games didn't fall into this trap and were generally liked by the fanbase, they failed to enthrall the wider public as their predecessor did.
  • Infinty Ward's first two games were critical and commercial successes. Then they released Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. They turned a good-selling series into a Cash Cow Franchise, perfected the single player experience, changed the perception of the "generic shooter" from World War II to modern, and created the possibly the most addictive multiplayer system of all time. Both Treyarch and I-Dub have had trouble following that act.
  • Tecmo Bowl had this happen after Tecmo Super Bowl was released for the NES. In 1993, they released a sequel (not a port, contrary to popular belief), also named Tecmo Super Bowl for the SNES and Mega Drive (Genesis). One of the main reasons was because of the roster changes from the 1990 season to the 1993 preseason. Many teams and players got better or worse, such as Dallas improved the most and Chicago got worse. One common complaint was the Three-season mode, where you play three seasons in a row with one team to get a better ending. Of course, it's an optional feature.
  • Saints Row 2 was beloved by so many that Saints Row: The Third almost had to be a letdown. Taken on its own merits, there's not a lot wrong with The Third, but when compared to its predecessor, there's a lot missing. For every new great thing that The Third introduced, it gave up something else from its predecessor. Better looking models but way less character customization. Better action, less reason to care about the characters. Better graphics for the city, but much more boring design for the city. Shaundi becoming a completely different character from her original to the point of being unrecognizable. The optional side-activities becoming mandatory, and a lot of the popular ones from the past (like FUZZ or Septic Avenger) completely gone. So on and so forth.
  • This is one of many ways one can describe what's happened to Sonic the Hedgehog. The original three games (this is taking Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles together as the complete title) and Sonic CD are hailed effectively universally as the shining gems of the series (and fantastic examples of high speed platforming in general). Every. Single. Sonic. Game. Since. Then. has been trying to get out of this shadow, some to far better results than others, and even then each one has an unfortunately strong Fandom Rivalry to go with it. The series has gone on to become the exemplary sample of Broken Base (amongst other things) as a result of this very trope.
    • Seems to have died down in the past few years, as Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations have been very well received by critics. Even most fans consider the two to be well done.
  • Super Mario 64 is considered to be the best Mario 3D platforming game in the history of the series, despite it dividing the fans over whether or not the 3D games are better than the 2D games. Super Mario Sunshine had an extremely hard time living up to everyone's expectations that was set by 64. Sunshine wasn't a bad game by any means, but many fans prefer 64 because the game was more open compared to Sunshine. Super Mario Galaxy also was met with high expectations and it generally succeeded.
  • Most succeeding installments from the Super Robot Wars series are generally regarded as better than their predecessors, at least when it comes to the same platform. Super Robot Wars W for the Nintendo DS is a fan favorite, featuring a great cast of series and well-liked original characters. Super Robot Wars K, on the other hand, had a myriad of problems, alongside increased difficulty and standardization of many game mechanics. Many players didn't sit well with K when they thoroughly enjoyed W.
  • This can be said of the Heaven's Feel scenario for Fate/stay night as on top of the issues it has (due to time constraints), it follows up the very Popular Unlimited Blade Works scenario. This also applies to the heroines of both, Rin and Sakura with the latter's lack of real development causing some fans to see her as The Scrappy.
  • The Dragon Age series sometimes comes across as this. The original game was heralded as a return to the good old days of the CRPG, a spiritual successor to the storied Baldur's Gate franchise. The sequel is a good game on its own merits but often fares poorly when compared to its predecessor.
  • Likewise, just trying to live up to the first Knights of the Old Republic; the Obsidian-made second game is a point of contention that was unfortunately rushed for a Christmas release. Star Wars: The Old Republic is breaking the base not just for being an MMO, but also because some of the game's Backstory turned that epic first game into a textbook Shoot the Shaggy Dog.
  • Golden Sun was a fantastic two-part series ending on so many plot hooks the fans clamored for a sequel. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, released years later, didn't quite live up to the legacy.
  • The first Streets of Rage was a decent counter to Final Fight. However, Streets of Rage 2 would easily be the best game in the series and one of the best games on the Sega Genesis and among beat-em-ups in general. Streets of Rage 3, even with its added features like cut-scenes, couldn't surpass it.
  • Depending on who you ask, The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the best game in the The Elder Scrolls series. The fight began at Morrowind's release, and continues to this very instant with only the original not having many people argue in its favor.
  • While Fable III still got favorable reviews, it wasn't as good as the second. Possibly because one of the most common complaints was how they changed the gaming mechanic.
  • Many of the complaints about Total War Rome II are essentially this: it's a pretty good game in its own right, but it's the immediate follow up to one of the best games in the series and a remake of the other best game in the series.
  • While Drakengard 3 is accepted by the fans as a worthy sequel to the main games, it came after NieR which is regarded as the series Magnum Opus and Drakengard 3 being unable to live up to that games legacy.

    Webcomics 
  • Sean Howard has provided this, as the reason why he's not writing any more webcomics. A Modest Destiny got very popular for getting very dark, and when he entered emotional recovery he didn't feel he could write like that any more. However, when he tries to write anything more lighthearted, he gets hate letter after hate letter from people demanding that he finish AMD rather than "waste time" on his new project.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Disney Animated Canon:
  • Beast Wars had such a devoted and passionate fanbase that when Beast Machines premiered, it was held to an impressively high standard and unfortunately, in the eyes of many fans, did not meet expectations. And since then, Beast Wars has become almost like a measuring stick for newer Transformers shows to be compared to.
    • The Transformers franchise suffers from this as a whole. Despite numerous reboots the 1984 series is considered the definitive version. Any new version is compared to it and rarely passes. Even Beast Wars, the most successful reboot had hatedom for a while ("Trukk not munky", et al).
    • One of the reasons why this situation results in numerous arguments among fans is because the Generation 1 show and Beast Wars are seen as "the standard" for different reasons by different people. G1 for many fans is the definition of Transformers — its concepts, the characters, the designs, the overall "feeling" of the show is what hard-core fans want to re-experience in every new cartoon. Beast Wars, on the other hand (and nowadays Transformers Animated and Transformers Prime as well), is used as a comparison point because it is a generally good, solid, quality production. In short, part of the fandom strives for the preservation of details between the different TF iterations, while the other isn't so concerned about these, just want a show that's good in its own right.
  • One of Walt Disney's early successes was the cartoon short "The Three Little Pigs" (which featured the song "Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?") Other follow-up cartoons with the same characters were less successful, which prompted Walt to comment, "You can't top pigs with pigs."
    • He actually made that comment before he made the other two cartoons. He made them anyway as a sort of proof-of-point to his distributors, who just wanted more of the same.
  • Lee Unkrich admitted to waking up physically ill from worry while directing Toy Story 3, afraid he would screw up the series. He turned out to be wrong, as the third film was warmly accepted by the fans and critics alike.
    • Unfortunately, that warm response has made Toy Story 3 this for Pixar; their next film, Cars 2, was the company's first outright failure with critics, and Brave and Monsters University have also received mixed notices, suggesting the company's fallen into a rut. (While Brave did win the Best Animated Feature Oscar for 2012, it was a surprise win over Disney's Wreck-It Ralph.)
  • Many of the revivals of Looney Tunes have suffered from trying to live up to the quality of the original Golden Age theatrical cartoons. That said, The Looney Tunes Show has tried to avert this by intentionally going in a different direction from the original shorts (sans the new Wile E Coyote CG shorts)—the producers even admitted that they did this because they realized by that point that trying to imitate the original cartoons would only lead to more failures. Some were happy, many were not.
  • Check a video on YouTube for The Batman or Batman: The Brave and the Bold and see how long it takes to scroll through the comments and find someone complaining it isn't as good as Batman: The Animated Series or that Kevin Conroy or Mark Hamill do a better Batman and Joker. Maybe this tendence will continue with other animated adaptations of that character...
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man adapted Spider-Man and his adventures with a good balance of drama and humor, updated characters and stories for the 21st century while retaining their likable traits, and managed to fit a relatively high amount of depth. Unfortunately, Sony Pictures Television's rights to Spidey expired, which resulted in a premature cancellation, and the rise of a new cartoon: Ultimate Spider-Man. Several Marvel fans find that it doesn't take itself very seriously, and the characters don't seem as endearing. The high level of Cutaway Gags and running gags in Ultimate Spider-Man can make it unbearable to sit through for viewers wanting more drama and/or characterization.
  • The first animated Peanuts special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, attracted half of the nation's TV viewers of its time, won a Pulitzer Prize, and continues to air every winter to this day. The second, Charlie Brown's All-Stars, didn't win any awards, and only airs sporadically these days. The fact Charlie Brown's second most popular TV special came a few months afterward probably pushed it even deeper into obscurity.
  • Avengers Assemble has the misfortune of following The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes among cartoons based on The Avengers. After the series' announcement, fans already felt like cursing Marvel Animation for not going beyond 52 episodes of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, despite the fact the announcement said nothing more than, "A new Avengers cartoon will come next year."
  • When Recess premiered in 1997 as one of the premiere shows of One Saturday Morning, it attracted a huge fanbase (most being a part of the Periphery Demographic) and critical acclaim, as well as being nominated for many awards (and winning one), getting a very successful movie (and two direct-to-video films), and gaining various types of merchandise, while the rest of the shows on the block eventually faded into obscurity. In 2001, the creators made another show for the block, Lloyd in Space, which despite getting very good ratings and reception, it never matched the popularity Recess had (and eventually got Screwed by the Network). The new Pound Puppies series from the same creators is also not looked on upon as fondly as Recess.
  • John Kricfalusi hit the proverbial jackpot with the amazing success of Ren and Stimpy in the 1990s. Most, if not all, of his subsequent cartoons have been widely panned, or at best receive a So Okay, It's Average response.
  • While Avatar: The Last Airbender is widely beloved, both the comic book continuation The Promise, The Search, and the sequel series The Legend of Korra had a more mixed reception, and while generally considered to be good, are rarely considered to be equal to the original series.
  • The original Fox seasons of Futurama have built a reputation as a Sacred Cow, with a rabid fanbase hailing them as dripping with perfection. Both the Direct-to-Video miniseries' and especially the Comedy Central seasons have been doomed to the highest levels of scrutiny in comparison.


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